ZME Science coverage of COP22

In what can only be described as hilariously sad, Australia’s energy minister Josh Frydenberg has used the climate talks in Marrakech to lobby support for what could become one of the largest coal mines in the world.

Australia’s coal production shows no signs of slowing down. Image credits: Wikipedia.

While in Marrakech, Morocco, people are working to find ways to protect the planet’s climate, Australia seems to be on a different path. The country has been repeatedly singled out as a laggard in addressing climate change, coming ahead of only Kazakhstan, South Korea, Japan and Saudi Arabia in a UN climate report. Another, separate study conducted by the London School of Economics, found that out of the G20 countries, Australia – as well as Argentina, Canada, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and the US – were “falling behind with their national climate mitigation action”.

Furthermore, some provinces and cities in Australia have independently tried to act more boldly but received little support from the government. This has been criticized both externally, and internally. The Australian Conservation Foundation’s chief executive, Kelly O’Shanassy, said:

“The government spruiks its climate credentials but Australia remains a laggard on cutting climate pollution. The world is watching as our pollution rises and governments support new mega-polluting coalmines.”

But that’s not all. Australia is openly defiant and even hypocritical in its climate strategy. Although they recently signed the Paris agreement, Australian environment and energy minister, Josh Frydenberg, lobbied for the opening of a new, grand coal mine. If the Carmichael mine goes ahead, it will easily become the biggest in Australia and one of the largest in the world. Coal is, of course, one of the most CO2 intensive industries and one of the first we must phase out to ensure a sustainable future for the planet.

Australia’s government defended its coal mine, saying that “Australia had a very effective environmental approvals process” and that “We should decide what mining projects are opened up in this country and the circumstances in which they open.”

Frydenberg was upset that a US NGO which had ties to the Democratic party was sponsoring activists in Australia. A campaign was sparked in Australian newspapers, vigorously contesting the activists and their activities.

“Such authority rests with Australia’s democratically elected representatives and established government processes. It does not belong with overseas governments (including prospective US presidents or their staff), self-appointed meddling international activists or local vigilante ‘lawfare’ litigants funded by activists.”

For this move, Australia was named the “Fossil of the Day” – a faux award given to countries or companies who fail to address climate change properly. The Climate Action Network which organizes this award, stated:

We don’t mean to gossip, but today the Australian Energy and Environment Minister Josh Frydenberg was caught complaining to US Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz about American charities standing in solidarity with Australian communities who are fighting to prevent the construction of the largest ever coal mine down under – Adani’s Carmichael mine. Australia ratified the Paris Agreement last Friday, so lobbying for coal expansion at the United Nations climate negotiations is an ugly, ugly thing to be doing. Shape up, Australia.

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